The "Fable of the Bees" - by Cheung, not Mandeville - is one of my favorite papers in economics. The paper punctures the myth that externalities inexorably lead to failure in markets for apples, which benefit from pollination provided by bees, and honey, which benefit from the presence of apple blossoms. Beekeepers and farmers do in fact write contracts which the originators of the myth, James Meade and Francois Bator, assumed they were incapable of. Contracting around the alleged externality leads beekeepers to place their hives where they are most valuable, contra the market failure claims of Meade and Bator.
Subsequent work by Randy Rucker and Wally Thurman documents that the market for pollination services is quite well developed indeed. In the U.S., bee hives are packed on semi-trucks and follow the blooming season around the country, with payments between beekeepers and farmers varying according to the relative values of their inputs. When summer rolls around, the bees on the western circuit are trucked into the northern plains states. "There the hives remain and the bees visit sunflower, clover, basswood trees, and other nectar sources, producing honey for consumption by the hive and extraction for sale by the beekeeper."
Lest champions of Meade and Bator regard the work by Rucker and Thurman as quantitatively insignificant, let the record reflect the facts from this unfortunate incident:
BOZEMAN, Montana (AP) -- A tractor-trailer overturned on a curve on a highway, spilling its load of hundreds of bee hives and unleashing some nine million angry honey bees.
The bees buzzed furiously as driver Lane Miller, his arm scraped to the bone, struggled to flee his rig after it overturned Monday in Bear Trap Canyon west of Bozeman. The truck slid across the highway before coming to a stop between guardrails.....
The state road was closed for 14 hours as crews and beekeepers cleaned up the 512 hives Miller was hauling from Idaho to North Dakota.
One tractor-trailer. Nine million honey bees. Any questions?